Driven

Quick Spin: 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

Hyundai has chosen the 2022 model year to debut the newest generation of the Hyundai Tucson. Competing in the hotly-contested compact SUV segment, the Tucson really hit its stride with the previous iteration and solidified Hyundai’s reputation as a serious competitor in the segment. With its angular yet also swoopy design, Hyundai has ensured that the Tucson stands apart in terms of styling. However, would the rest of the package live up to the boldness displayed by the exterior, or is the new Tucson Hybrid luring you in with its looks then leaving high and dry?

The compact SUV segment is one of the MOST competitive in the entire automotive industry. Featuring such stalwarts as the Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester, Hyundai needs to dare to be different and think outside the box if it truly wants to persuade buyers away from the more “traditional” offerings. Hyundai has absolutely done that with the 2022 Tucson. Although featuring perhaps a few too many cut lines and textures, Hyundai has crafted an extremely unique and futuristic looking vehicle. In particular, the daytime running light design that is intricately blended into the grille is not only a nice touch but helps to immediately identify the vehicle when seen head-on. Hyundai has not only avoided the Cardinal Sin of Generic Styling, it has created a genuinely funky and good looking vehicle in a class synonymous with monotonous styling. Our “Limited Hybrid” trim level Tucson was equipped with 19″ wheels that did an impressive job of filling out the wheel wells and adding some extra curb appeal.

The new Tucson is 6.1 inches longer than before, riding on a 3.4 inch longer wheelbase to provide extra room to both front and rear passengers when compared with the previous generation. Hyundai has not only bestowed the new Tucson with a roomier interior, but with a much-upgraded one as well. Whereas the exterior is bold and unique, the interior is more restrained and tasteful, with climate control vents melded seamlessly into the trim adorning the dashboard and chic, soft fabric trim placed where a 1980’s car might have fake wood. The Hybrid Limited is fully loaded with Hyundai’s newest suite of electronic gizmos, gadgets and nannies to delight your inner techie and keep you on safe on the road. The center stack unfortunately relies too heavily on touch-sensitive controls, meaning you have to swipe to change the volume, temperature or fan speed. Knob lovers everywhere will be quite dismayed. Though having a totally touch-sensitive center stack looks modern, it unfortunately means that more time is spent trying to look and see what you are changing, taking your eyes off the road. The Hybrid Limited also comes with an entirely digital gauge cluster that provides blind-spot cameras in the gauges when you operate the turn-signals, which is a neat feature that allows you to see the lane next to you more clearly to help ensure a safe merge. The seats look nice to the eye but weren’t particularly well padded, comfortable or supportive. They weren’t uncomfortable, they simply weren’t superlative. If not amazingly comfortable, at least Hyundai equips the Tucson Hybrid Limited with heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats, uncommon luxuries for this class.

Driving the Tucson Hybrid Limited was akin to operating a driving appliance: it got you to where you needed to be safely and reliably, but without any verve, joy or soul. Hyundai has befuddelingly chosen to equip the Tucson with push-buttons to select the gears, which can catch a new user off-guard and complicates what should be an easy task. Steering feel is as numb as they come, which is par for the course for the segment. Brake feel was a bit odd, as the regenerative braking conspired to create a feel and response that wasn’t consistent and hopefully will be refined as the model gets updated. The Tucson Hybrid is quipped with a 1.6 liter turbo-four combined with a 59 hp electric motor for a total of 226 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Despite these relatively muscular figures (for its class), the Tucson Hybrid feels anything but quick, suffering from lethargic initial acceleration, sometimes hesitating dramatically before accelerating from a dead stop and adding some unintended excitement to merging maneuvers. Fuel economy, the real reason you get a hybrid, is EPA rated at 37 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, but us lead-footed drivers at LSB were averaging 28 mpg in mixed city and highway driving. The suspension tuning of the Tucson is a bit odd, as it seems both a bit firm around town and under-damped over some bumps. However, get the Tucson Hybrid out on the highway and it truly shines, as the ride settles down commendably and the (relatively) quiet cabin and decent sound system can be properly appreciated. Amusingly, the key can be used to remotely control the Tucson without anyone driving it; Hyundai suggests that its use would be to back it out or pull it into a tight parking spot. We certainly enjoyed testing this feature in an empty parking lot.

Packed with electronic gizmos and doodads, bold styling outside and feature-laden within, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Limited deserves a serious look and test drive. If not class-leading in terms of driving dynamics or powertrain refinement, Hyundai packs plenty of both in a very unique and feature-laden package. Throw in Hyundai’s trademark value and industry-leading warranty, and you have a compelling compact SUV deserving its piece of the pie just as much as the more usual offerings.

-Ken Wilson

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Limited AWD$37,500
Destination Charges$1,185
As-Tested MSRP$38,685

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